When we sit back and attempt to answer the question: why do the Los Angeles Dodgers win games, what comes to mind? Obviously, you’re going to think offense. Then, you may think about a star-studded starting rotation.
However, how many of you think about a great defensive outfield for being the reason? Without a doubt – this is a huge reason the Dodgers are winning ballgames at a .646 clip.
Now, Bill Plunkett of the OC Register writes that the Dodgers have one of the best defensive outfields in the game, currently.
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) May 19, 2019
So how have things changed from 2018? Sometimes it’s not easy when you’re watching the game on television to tell if an outfield play is superb. Personally, I thought Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig looked decent last season with the old eye-ball test. However, look at what Plunkett points out:
Dodgers outfielders ranked 12th in the majors in defensive runs saved last year, 21st in UZR and 24th in RZR. This year, Dodgers outfielders rank first in defensive runs saved, third in UZR and seventh in RZR.
While not bad – the outfield as a unit weren’t scored as ‘world beaters’ in 2018. If you’re interested in seeing the impact the current unit is having, the article nicely dives into this.
As a pleasant surprise, Alex Verdugo grades out very high within advanced metrics. From the article:
Bellinger and Alex Verdugo have clearly made a difference. Matt Kemp rated as an average outfielder last season (a decided improvement over a steep decline the previous few years). Though he had the skills to be a defensive standout and often made highlight-reel plays, Yasiel Puig’s overall defense had deteriorated to the point where he ranked below average last season.
Roberts has begun touting Bellinger as a Gold Glove candidate in right field. Verdugo actually ranks as the Dodgers’ best defensive outfielder (a significant improvement over A.J. Pollock in most categories) and one of their best defenders overall. Joc Pederson’s defensive rating (slightly below average) is the best it has been since 2016.
It seems like everyone knew the Dodgers had a Gold Glove caliber defender in Bellinger. To me, the bigger story here are the chess pieces flanking him in Verdugo and Pederson.
To learn that Verdugo is favorable in contrast to Pollock defensively comes at a huge surprise. Furthermore, to hear that Pederson is playing his best defense since early in his career to go along with the power numbers is a huge shot in the arm for the team.
Here is to hope that both health and the advanced metrics continue to trend in a positive direction.
To sum it all up – things are working out well for the Dodgers’ outfield. Consider that they didn’t want to play Verdugo every day, desired to trade Pederson, and didn’t plan to play Bellinger full-time in the outfield; this story may never have been written.
At the current time, it’s panned out. And sometimes in the game of baseball – you need to be both lucky and good. Fortune has shined upon the Dodgers with this trio of defensive outfielders.